This review was actually posted 5 years ago. I had meant to RT it but for some reason, it got buried under all my other work. I am rectifying this grievous error now.
Thank you so much to Rachel’s Now Reading for your kind words. Please subscribe to her page to get book reviews on a wonderfully eclectic range of reading material.
“This is a book review of Victor Fernando R. Ocampo’s “The Infinite LIbrary and Other Stories”. It’s a book containing 17 speculative fiction short stories somewhat linked together to make a whole.
If you’re a sci-fi fan, this is definitely the book for you. The presence of queer elements helped as I always love an inclusive book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection and hope you will too!”
Thank you to the UST Faculty of Arts & Letters and the UST MaKatha Circle for inviting me to share my writing journey at their ” Roots & Refractions: Bridging MaKatha Traditions” event last 27 February. I really enjoyed interacting with so many young writers.
Keep reading what makes your heart sing. Fill yourself up with all the beauty that life throws your way. And keep writing — because young creatives like you are our best defense against all the terrible and ugly things darkening our reality. Once you realize what this world is worth, you will fight to defend it.
Write a new world for all of us…
Up next, meet Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, a Filipino author of speculative and experimental fiction stories!
A fellow at the Milford Science Fiction Writers’ Conference in the UK and the Cinemalaya Ricky Lee Film Script Writing Workshop in the Philippines, he currently resides in Singapore where he was also a writer-in-residence at the Jalan Besar at Sing Lit Station. His works have been shortlisted for the International Rubery Book Award in 2018, and he won the Romeo Forbes Children’s Story Award in 2012.
Victor’s most recognized stories include:
THE INFINITE LIBRARY AND OTHER STORIES. Three Filipino siblings fighting an enemy that uses words as weapons, sigbin monsters in space, a banned children’s book hiding a secret that could save a doomed generation ship, a slow-motion disaster turning people into living math equations,?! Name it and this book surely has it. Grab this collection of stories that goes beyond what our mind deems possible and be carried away by all its mystical twists and turns.
Grab a copy:
HERE BE DRAGONS. Ever wished to have a map that would make life easier? Well,
Isabella met the perfect guy that makes a map of just about anything! Would she take the risk
“The Easiest Way to Solve a Problem” is a short story about adding the consciousness of expat Filipino PMET workers to a massive corporate AI in Singapore. It appeared last April, 2022 in the book Get Luckier: An Anthology of Philippine and Singapore Writings (Singapore: Squircle Line Press, 2022), edited by Migs Bravo Dutt, Claire Betita de Guzman, Aaron Lee Soon Yong, and Eric Tinsay Valles. – https://www.get-luckier-anthology.com/victor-fernando-r-ocampo
“I m d 1 in 10” , his experimental story inspired by Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae, first appeared in the July 2014 issue of The Future Fire (Editor: Djibril al-Ayad). It was written with Latin, L337, IM and SMS speak, emoticons and a Filipino argot called Jejemon. – http://futurefire.net/2014.30/fiction/imd1in10.html
Immerse yourselves in Victor Ocampo’s works with this playlist!
: Anjellyca Villamayor, and Roanne Aludino
: Chrystal Cariño, Lauren Ainella Tagle, and Sophia Mendoza
A.I. generated art has been around for years. But tools released this year like DALL-E 2, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion — have made it possible for visual-art challenged people like myself to create fairly complex, abstract or photorealistic works simply by typing a few words into a text box.
These are my first attempts to illustrate some of my stories using Midjourney AI. Not incredible but not to shabby either. I could actually use some of these as e-book covers.
However, I am still on the fence about the ethics of A.I.-generated art. Are they a real emergent art form or a high-tech form of plagiarism? WDYT?
“I ducked out of sight as soon as I saw the wolf-like mecha, shrouding my lantern with my shirt. Frightful as they were, I was mesmerized by their strange beauty. In the half-light of the Holosonic, their liquid-armor bodies shimmered purple, vermillion and bronze. I imagined these to be the colors of a sun that I had never seen, the burial clothes of a mother-star that we had abandoned so long ago.”
“From out of nowhere, Deo smelled an immensely foul odor, a rotting stench filled with the smell of death. A shape coalesced from the blackness, swiftly moving, gibbering, and utterly horrible. A sigben, a vicious half-dog/half-lizard chimera from ancient Philippine Myth had come for him. The impossible monster blocked his path and let loose a frightening roar-bark loud as a thunder clap.”
“Joseph wished he didn’t have to remove his mask. Everywhere he went, people stared at him. Without his mask’s protection, the city’s xenophobic populace would peer from windows or point as he walked past whispering “fremde, außerirdische, ausländer, Asiaten, Japaner, Chinesischer Mann, Korean Mann” –- anything but his own ethnicity.”
“The smaller boy watched as his brother fished out a pair of smart goggles from his shorts pocket and clipped his phone to his wristband. Berto’s body was dark and tightly muscled. He seemed naked save for the skintight nanotech body suit that kept his body warm and protected it from the sun’s radiation.“
“Moreover, some stories explore the world between literary and genre fiction. It’s the best of both worlds, and it’s a noteworthy addition to a meager selection of Filipino sci-fi books.“
I also have a short story, “Infinite Degrees of Freedom” in the first book he discussed, Science Fiction: Filipino Fiction For Young Adults (Quezon City: UP Press, 2016). This work was also translated into Chinese and appeared in Science Fiction World‘s March 2017 issue. The story concerns the rocky relationship between a distant father and his emotionally needy son, programmable matter, guns that fire bolts of electricity, chicharon and a mythical sigben monster loose inside a rickety old spaceship.
I firmly believe in the transformative power of Science Fiction in nation building. As historian Yuvel Noah Harari said: “Today science fiction is the most important artistic genre… It shapes the understanding of the public on things like artificial intelligence and biotechnology, which are likely to change our lives and society more than anything else in the coming decades.”
But we must be conscientious with what we choose to write. The stories we dream up could very well be the bedrock upon which the next generation of Filipinos will build the future.
As promised, here’s a teaser from my chapter of Mapping New Stars: A Sourcebook on Philippine Speculative Fiction (Editors: Gabriela Lee and Anna Felicia Sanchez, UP Press pre-publication) – This is the first-ever collection of non-fiction essays and think pieces about about Philippine Speculative Fiction, written by many authors, academics and critics who are active in the field. My research on “The Roots of Speculative Fiction in the Philippines” grew from my 2014 attempt at documenting the early days of local Science Fiction (check out my original post here). For this chapter, I tried to identify the earliest known Filipino works that could be reasonably argued as Fantasy, Horror, and of course, Science Fiction.
Here’s the introduction:
Stories of the fantastic have existed in the Philippine Islands for as long as there have been people to tell them. From the earliest folk tales born in the depths of pre-Hispanic history, to the forms of literature that were introduced and evolved during the colonial period, to the rise of modernism and post-colonial writing that arrived after the birth of the republic, “speculative” fiction that explores the human condition through the unreal or the otherworldly continues to thrive and to grow because it speaks to something deep within readers that cannot be addressed by realism.
Cover of Doktor Kuba by Fausto J. Galauran M.D. Manila: Limbagan Nina Ilagan at Sañga, 1933
Contemporary “Filipino speculative fiction” as a category and domain of cultural activity can be said to have properly begun only in 2005, with the arrival of its first deliberate and sustained platform – the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology series (edited by Dean Francis and Nikki Alfar). But what about texts that were not explicitly labeled “speculative fiction” by their authors, or were published prior to the first Philippine Speculative Fiction (PSF)? Let’s take a look at how deep the roots of the literature of the fantastic have dug into our history. How far back they go may surprise you.
I. Defining Speculative Fiction in the Philippine Context
“Every enthusiasm aspires to respectability,” Science Fiction Grandmaster Isaac Asimov once said about his chosen field of writing, “and one way of getting it, is to demonstrate that it is old, even ancient.”
He goes on to say that by broadening Science Fiction’s definition to encompass “the branch of literature that deals with the imaginative and the unfamiliar”, it could be induced that Science Fiction is as old as literature itself.
Although Asimov walks this back to a more narrow definition later, his initial, expansive definition of science fiction to include everything non-realist and fantastical is, in fact, one of the accepted historically located meanings for the term “speculative fiction”. In this context, speculative fiction is defined as a supercategory of literature that includes fantasy, horror and science fiction, as well as their derivatives, hybrids, and cognate genres like the gothic, dystopia, weird fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, ghost stories, superhero tales, alternate history, steampunk, slipstream, magic realism, fractured/subverted folktales, and all their related sub-genres. It encompasses, what fictionist and editor Dean Francis Alfar noted as “at its core, the literature of the fantastic”.
Marek Oziewicz, the Marguerite Henry Professor of Children’s and Young Adult Literature at the University of Minnesota, said that a story falls under the realm of speculative fiction if it has “speculative fiction sensibilities” i.e. it contains speculative elements that are based on conjecture and do not exist in the real world. These non-realist stories can also be filed under one of the genres covered by the speculative fiction umbrella.
Excluded from our definition of speculative fiction are ethno-epics, tribal myths and legends, as well as traditional fairy and wonder tales which fall under the category of folktales. These are anonymously authored literary artifacts, passed primarily through oral narratives. Also excluded are children’s stories and juvenilia, which is a branch of literature on its own.
Philippine speculative fiction is simply the spectrum of all genre work in fantasy, horror and science fiction (as well as their sub-genres) united by a Philippine identity and a coherent Filipino aesthetic.
Prior to the arrival of the first volume of Philippine Speculative Fiction in 2005, the term “Philippine speculative fiction” didn’t exist. Realism was (and remains) the most popular literary mode. Any work that existed outside this scope was marginalized. As both PSF founding editors, the Alfars, lamented in the introduction to the first volume of PSF:
“If you look for speculative fiction in the Philippines, you will be dismayed. Science Fiction and the literature of the fantastic are in very small numbers and are still looked down upon as inferior…”.
Yet despite this realist bias, there are many pre-PSF works of Filipino literature that demonstrate speculative sensibilities that can readily be classified under speculative fiction’s umbrella genres of fantasy, horror and science fiction.
 Asimov, Isaac, The Birth of Science In Fiction (New York: Knightsbridge, 1981), p 9
 Oziewicz, Marek, “Speculative Fiction”, Literature, Oxford Research Encyclopedia, 29 March 2017
 Alfar, Dean Francis, “Introduction”, Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 2 (Pasig: Kestrel, 2006), p IX
 Alfar, Dean Francis, “An Introduction”, Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 1 (Pasig: Kestrel, 2005), p vii
BTW, I’ve decided not to post my unedited original text for the Science Fiction section due to — reasons. Instead I will (eventually) post the intros to Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction sub-sections, as well as the chapter intro you see here.
Just sharing my first non-fiction work in a major mainstream literary magazine. I believe that a nascent center for Speculative Fiction has been quietly developing in Southeast Asia. This article provides a round up of the essential anthologies that give a great intro to the works from the region.
You can read the whole article at Literary Hub. Thank you to Gaudy Boy (especially Isabel Drake) for facilitating this.
It’s finally finished! So proud to be part of this seminal work on PH Spec Fic – “Mapping New Stars: A Sourcebook on Philippine Speculative Fiction,” edited by Gabriela Lee and Anna Sanchez . Thanks for inviting me to be a part of this!
I spent the first half of 2021 working on this massive project and my poor editors had to edit out so much material. Please watch out for the launch later this year or sometime in early 2023.
Congratulations to all my fellow TOC mates!
My chapter on “The Roots of Speculative Fiction in the Philippines” grew from my initial stab at documenting the early days of local Science Fiction. This time, I attempt to identify the oldest known Filipino works of Fantasy, Horror, and of course, Science Fiction.
As a teaser, I shall be posting an updated and super-remixed version of the section on Philippine Science Fiction here on my blog very soon (Likely after my upcoming eye surgery).
The beautiful cover below is by Hans Dimapilis
Check out the amazing , powerhouse TOC:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction: A Beginner’s Guide to Cartography
A Brief Visual Timeline of Developments in Philippine Speculative Fiction
“Waiting for Victory: Towards a Philippine Speculative Fiction” by Anna Felicia Sanchez
Reading Philippine Speculative Fiction
“The Speculative Impulse” by Michaela Atienza
“Sapantaha: Isang Tangkang Depinisyon” by Luna Sicat Cleto
“Ang Kagila-gilalas na Haka kay Mariang Makiling Bilang Bukal ng Paglikha” by Edgar Calabia Samar
“The Roots of Speculative Fiction in the Philippines” by Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
“Tracing the Trajectory of Children’s Speculative Fiction in the Philippines” by Gabriela Lee
“Free and Open Spaces: Komiks and Speculative Fiction” by Francis Paolo M. Quina
“Philippine Speculative Fiction on the International Stage” by Charles Tan
Writing Philippine Speculative Fiction
“Where Do Stories Begin?” by Vida Cruz
“Choosing Your Genre: The Novel or the Short Story?” by Eliza Victoria
“Building Worlds” by Dean Francis Alfar
“Character Creation, or How to Get Away with Murderers” by Nikki Alfar
“Planning the Narrative Journey” by Isabel Yap
“Setting Up a Magic System” by Christine V. Lao
“First World Dreams, Third World Realities” by Emil Francis M. Flores
“Considering Speculative Poetry” by Kristine Ong Muslim
Thank you also to the Pushcart-nominated writer and 2020 Felipe P. De Alba Fellow, Jemma Wei for hosting the event ,and to the wonderful Monique Truong, winner of the 2004 PEN/Robert Bingham Award, and best selling author of The Book of Salt, Bitter in the Mouth, and The Sweetest Fruits for judging the entries to Singapore Unbound‘s first flash fiction contest (the prompt of which was the title of my book). Congratulations to all the winners:
First prize: “A Room with a Point of View,” by Masturah Alatas (Italy).
Second prize: “This Is a Nice Hotel,” by Olivia Djawoto (Singapore).
Third Prize: “Devotion,” by Shuchi (Singapore).
Honorable Mention: “How Fucky Am I To Be Loved,” by Aaric Tan Xiang Yeow (Singapore).
Lastly, thank you to all who submitted entries and to all those who spent their Saturday evening with us!
The Singapore Writers Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and I am happy to be part of an event that includes such literary and genre heavy weights such as Gemino Abad, Dean Alfar, Simon Armitage, Aliette de Bodard, Shelly Bryant, Junot Diaz, Ken Liu, Marjorie Liu, Isa Kamari, Jason Erik Lundberg, Ng Yi-Sheng, Tony Parsons, Edwin Thumboo , Cyril Wong and JY Yang to name just a few.
The festival’s theme this year is the Tamil word அரம் (Aram) whose meaning embodies goodness, equity and justice. Used extensively in older Tamil literature, it is a word has rich connotation and an ideal of goodness and generosity for humanity to aspire to. It is today a quality much needed in our increasingly complex and difficult world.
Some of the best Science Fiction stories also share this normative, Utopian vision and I hope to be able to talk about it in my panels. You can find my SWF schedule here:
Writing from the fringes of both genre and mainstream literature, I’m always surprised when someone says that they’ve read one of my stories (no, really). Two weeks week ago I found out that a high school in Las Vegas, Nevada used “Blessed Are The Hungry” (Apex #62) as a study text for literature class. After reading it, 58 students left comments for me at Apex’s website. Most were very positive, a few critical, some were even quite effusive — but wow, 58 comments! That’s definitely a new record for me.
Here are some of my favorites:
From Kirsten Tan – “I thought that this story was engaging, and it was an interesting take on what can happen when you don’t fight back and how something horrible can continue to be perpetuated. I enjoyed reading about how the father and his sons chose to fight back instead of “suffer in silence,” and how this chain of events led to everyone finding out what was actually happening. I also felt concern when the mother told Elsa that she couldn’t go with her father simply because she’d be a great “breeder.” she’d It sort of reminded me of A Handmaid’s Tale, because women’s fertility were considered highly important.”
From Jordan – “Your story was very well written. It was very descriptive because of all the details, figurative language pieces, similes, etc. you added to your story. I found the part where Elsa was talking about all of these gruesome words to her younger sibling very disturbing and I can’t believe she was teaching those kinds of words to him but wow, this story gave such a different vibe than all the rest (which I really enjoyed). The dystopian, space feel was super cool to read in a book because I have never read anything like this before!”
From Ariel Bloch – “This story is gruesome yet beautiful. A dying ship travelling through never ending darkness, with a spark of warmth and hope igniting in the dark. This terrifying yet realistic interpretation of the future keeps your eyes glued to the screen, and makes you fear, perhaps, your own dark thoughts and selfishness. The figurative language used in this short story sharpened my vision as I read, and encouraged me to dive further into this cold world. The moment you begin reading you get a sense of the foul society that Elsa lives in, and the hopelessness that has devoured generations as they were born and buried in the dark vacuum of space.”
From Anna Wood – “From the beginning, I was immediately intrigued by the execution scene. It was shocking how children were there to witness it. As the story progressed, it only became more and more fascinating. I like how you included a bit of mystery with the missing page and unknown levels of the spaceship. It left me questioning. At the end, I was still left with many questions. It was a very well written short story that I would definitely read as a book.”
Although I did not write this story with secondary school readers in mind, I am very pleased that it was selected for them. Moreover, I am ecstatic that most of these kids seemed to enjoyed it (despite the scary parts). This is really a wonderful gift that they have given me. Without knowing it, these kids from Las Vegas and their wonderful, albeit anonymous, teacher have provided me with the encouragement I really needed to complete this story arc as a novel. Thank you so much!